For many people, that isn’t a big deal. But I’m a city girl. I grew up in Phoenix, where the largest critter I saw was a sewer roach [shudder]. While I’ve heard my mom (who served in her early 20s as a Mennonite voluntary service volunteer on Arizona's Hopi Indian Reservation) reminiscing about the scorpions she'd find in her shoes, that wasn’t a problem in the rapidly-expanding suburbs where I grew up.
When we went out into the desert, however, we’d always see some critter or another—a coyote’s eyes reflected in the headlights, a road runner scared by our noisiness, or even a sluggish rattler (upon which I watched a visiting relative once pour coffee just to see if it would “wake up”). I always got a rush from encountering a wild critter like that—and since moving to Alabama five years ago, that rush is much more frequent.
I’ve seen a deer running between the houses on my street and coyotes skulking about newly built fences. I was almost bitten by a snapping turtle I innocently perceived to be helping by moving it out of the road. (Despite being billed as one of the slowest creatures on earth, that one spun its snapping jaw around faster than any dang critter I’ve ever seen.) I’ve spotted more kinds of birds in the last five years than in all my previous years combined. I’ve watched mice skitter across my living room floor and rats crawl across telephone wires. I’ve looked out my bedroom window and seen a possum. I’ve opened my front door to find spiders as big as my hand and stepped on roaches in my backyard that rival those in the South West. There are grubs in my flower beds, hills of painfully biting fire ants in my lawn and mosquitoes both invisible and the size of Montana. There are more kinds of wasps and bees here than I thought possible and those gorgeous, shimmered-winged dragonflies somehow seem to regularly find their way into my home.
I’m always caught unaware when one of these bugs or critters shows up. It’s fleetingly unsettling, like I’ve encountered a rip or tear in the world I think I inhabit. It’s a reminder that I haven’t been living in the real world—the bigger, vaster one that somehow shrinks in my mind as I go about my day-to-day life.
It’s rather like walking around the corner and bumping into God.
Indeed, for me, encountering critters is encountering God. After that brief, unsettled moment, I remember where I am. And that’s the moment when I realize where I really, truly live and breath. That’s the moment when I exhale a repentant apology and inhale clean, sweet, wide-open-spaces air. That’s the moment of stabbing joy, because I remember who I am and for what I’m made. That’s the moment I taste the Kingdom in which I live and the heaven that’s yet to be.
I need those moments, so I’m glad to live where I do—even if it means armadillos dig for grubs among my bushes or spiders cling to the bricks outside my front door. They are welcome—so very, very welcome—because they remind me of their Maker, my Maker. And that is always good, just like him.